Monday, December 31, 2007

Bring in 2008

We're back from our holiday in the U.K. with Claire and Geoff. A really nice, but short, week. This time we got to see a little of Northampton on a busy Sunday-before-Christmas shopping spree. We had a great time -- a family visit and not tourist marathon.

The day we drove up, the frost had accumulated for several days and the trees and ground near the highway were all white. It looked like a Christmas card. And it was a very clear day for the crossing. There was hardly any serious traffic on the drive around London, so we got to Duston in good time.

Sunday, we went into Northampton for a bit of last minute shopping and to see a bit of the town. But mostly we relaxed. We ended the evening at home watching TV and then "The Wizard of Oz" as preparation to see "Wicked", the musical. It was a good review for all. Homemade pizza around the coffee table and a fun evening.

The next day Geoff had to go to work. The rest of us got up late, and aside from going into Duston with Claire for some food, we all spent the day in. Anne, with perfect timing, came down with a cold on the first day of the vacation and was really stuffed up and needed the rest. Claire and I prepared dinner - Paul's birthday, after all. (Claire wanted lots and lots of stuffing, but I mis-calculated the amount of bread needed for the quantity of vegetables be put in and also the bread was probably not dry enough, so it ended up being tasty, but soggy. But that was the only thing that didn't come out perfectly.)

Christmas day we all got up early and went down to Woking, to Geoff's parents' home for Christmas lunch. We packed up all the gifts to open them down there and set off. It was a much more tranquil visit than the previous one when there were 14 of us. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know Alison and Ahmad better. Ahmad speaks French, so both Paul and Ahmad are happy. In fact, the whole day was spent sliding from French to English and back for everyone. We, the French contingent had brought foie gras and maccarons, which we staralmostted off with while we prepared the vegetables and then opened the presents. Then came lunch/dinner - stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce and plenty of vegetables. (Geoff took the picture.) We took a long break before getting to the cheese and never did get to the pudding! After a few games of poker and blackjack, we called it a day.

Claire and I pooled together to offer our now traditional family theater outing. We treated the family to "Wicked", the musical comedy prequil to the "The Wizard of Oz". It's the story of how the wicked witch of the west became wicked. It's all very politically correct and can be seen by kids from about 8 on. I think we all enjoyed it, but now, I can't readily hum any of the tunes. They didn't stick. And when I went to the website to find the link for you, I noticed that the composer/author was not given any billing - you have to look for them in the "Cast and Creation section and you even have to click again to get to the creation page. It's never referred to as Schwartz's "Wicked" or Schartz and Holzman's "Wicked".

But before we went to the show, we went up on the London Eye to get a bird's eye view of London. It was still daylight when we set out and already nightfall as we came down. It's a beautiful ride. It's not easy to get a steady picture; this blurry view of Westminster at the end of the ride, when the lights came one, is the best I got.

We never got around to any Boxing Day sales. The shops we ran across were closed on Boxing Day, in line with tradition. We made up for it with an excursion to Guildford the next day. The High Street was packed with shoppers and there are several shopping centers that all seem to have High Street entrances, so it is a major shopping town. It certainly is not an empty city center that lost its customers to peripheral shopping centers. In fact, these in-town centers are quite common: there are two in Woking and it's seems the same in Northampton.

We wanted to treat the Husaunndees to dinner, since they had us for Christmas. The best solution was to bring the restaurant to them and we ordered from an Indian restaurant. (You can't go to England and not eat Indian at least once - I love it!) I really didn't think I could eat any more, but we ended up finishing almost everything! And then we finished it off with the Christmas pudding we had not had on Christmas day. I never realized the sauce was so easy - a bechamel base with sugar and rum. Alison showed me a new way to make lump-free bechamel - putting the butter, milk and flour all in the pot cold and heating it slowly, stirring constantly.

We got back home on Friday evening after a fairly rough crossing. And now it's time to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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